Five Creative Exercises to Improve Your Photography

Oded Wagenstein

Feeling stuck? Frustrated? Looking for some new ideas to add to the stories you tell with your camera? Oded Wagenstein has five creative exercises to help you break through the "what do I do now?" blues. Part I of II.

1. Compose Storytelling Portraits

Composition is more than framing alone: it is also carefully planning and choosing the right angle, light, background, timing, etc. Composition uses all the visual elements to create a sense of emotion and story to that portrait.

Make a portrait of a person you already know, such as a family member or a close friend. Create a short story about that person with the image alone (no caption) through composition. In addition to the angles, lighting, background, and timing, remember to think about the location, clothing, and necessary accessories for your portrait. Send the final image to someone who is not familiar with your subject and seek his or her feedback. Did you manage to tell the story of that person? How did others read your portrait?

2. Review Your Work

You’re probably familiar with the concept of drawing inspiration from the work of others, but you can also grow by reviewing your own work.

Take a look at your images from the past few years and select 20 of your favourite photographs. Put aside comments or feedback you received and focus on your taste and personal preference. Copy your selection to a new folder, then go through the files and find common elements in your best work. For example, are they all focused on certain themes or genres? Are you at your best when using a specific camera or lens? Did you make those photographs when you were alone or with others? It may not be initially easy to find similar elements, but finding that commonality in your best images will help you understand when, why, and how you are at your photographic best.

3. Photograph Close to Home

You don’t need to travel far to make interesting images. A good photographer must be able to see the interesting aspects of every location. Tell the story of your local environment based on your favourite photography genre. It can be a local market or street, landscape, or wildlife. At first, it may feel complex, as it’s not always easy to see the beauty of the things around you; the things you undoubtedly consider mundane. But with dedicated practice, you’ll notice things you previously ignored are worth your visual attention.

Build a photo series of 10-15 images around your subject, add captions to each, and present it to local organizations that may want to publish your photographs on their media platforms. Many community coffee shops also do rotating exhibits from local artists; ask if you can hang your work on their walls.

4. Use an Unconventional Lens

No matter what you photograph, someone will offer their advice (solicited or not) for the must-have gear they think you should have. For landscape photography, most people say that you use a wide lens, while the 50mm is considered by some to be the portrait lens. 

So when you’re out making photographs, make a practice of choosing the "wrong" focal length. For example, use a telephoto lens for landscapes, a wide lens for wildlife, or a fisheye for portraits. Using a non-conventional lens helps you see your subject from a different perspective, which pushes your visual imagination and creativity.

5. Share Your Work

"I’m not good enough," or “I need more time" are excuses I often hear from my students when I ask them to share their work online. Making the photo is only half of the work; if you want to get better at what you do, there is nothing like the feedback of an audience.

So if you’re not already doing so, share your photos with the world. Instagram is a great platform to show your work and lead people to your website. Don’t have a website? There are many simple and cost-effective designs available for photographers. Don’t want to maintain a site? Start a photography page on Facebook and gather 500 Likes in the next three months. Already have a Facebook page? What about having a photo exhibition? The platform doesn’t matter as long as you share your work and receive feedback from other people. 

Part II of this article will post on Friday, October 7. 

Oded Wagenstein is a cultural photographer, writer, workshop leader and regular contributor for National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Time Out (Israeli editions) and Getty Images. Between writing books on photography and traveling the world, he shares his knowledge with students at the largest photography school in Israel and in international workshops. If you like this article, you might also like Oded's eBooks, The Visual Storyteller and Stories & Faces. Oded can be found online via Facebook and on his website

 

Creativity Oded Wagenstein

← Older Post Newer Post →


Comments


  • I absolutely love your work and enjoy reading your articles. i hope with studying wonderful photographers such as yourself i can improve and be a good photographer one day.

    Tracey on
  • Enjoyed reading your post. Great photographs. I personally have great difficulty in reviewing my work. After a year or so i find my photographs outdated and not that good anymore. I hope it is so, due to the process of my skills.

    Anastasios on

Leave a comment

  1. Understanding The Stages
  2. Conceptually Speaking: A Word With Claire Rosen
  3. Best Places
  4. Thinking Less Literally
  5. Vision Is Better, Ep. 63
  6. An Iconic Photograph, or a Photographed Icon?
  7. Thinking in Monochrome
  8. Vision Is Better, Ep.62
  9. Vision Is Better, Ep.61
  10. Making the Image: Kathleen Clemons
  11. Night Ranger: A Word With David Kingham
  12. Understanding the Night Sky
  13. Vision Is Better, Ep.60
  14. The Value of Critique
  15. Capturing the Moment
  16. Vision Is Better, Ep.59
  17. Five Key Elements of Food Photography
  18. Using Flash That Doesn't Look Lit
  19. Vision Is Better, Ep.58
  20. Using Flash To Improve Your Photographs
  21. Five Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash
  22. Vision Is Better, Ep.57
  23. Finding Critics
  24. Street Life: A Word With Libby Holmsen
  25. Using the Frame
  26. The Photographer's Tools
  27. Backlight: The Art of Silhouettes
  28. Vision Is Better, Ep.56
  29. Understanding Perspective
  30. Vision Is Better, Ep.55
  31. In Conversation: Sharon Covert
  32. Create Projects + Collaborate
  33. Mirrors or Windows?
  34. 2018 Mentor Series Workshop: Varanasi, India
  35. F/ The Rules
  36. Drawing the Eye With Selective Focus
  37. In Conversation: Willem Wernsen
  38. Exposing for Highlights
  39. Using Fill Light to Create Dramatic Portraits
  40. Cameras Don't Make Photographs
  41. Shooting with Your Final Image in Mind
  42. 10 Ways to Make Better Black and White Photographs
  43. 2018 Maasai Mara Photographic Safari
  44. 2018 Mentor Series Workshop: Lalibela, Ethiopia
  45. Start With the Corners
  46. Creating Painterly Images with Movement and Multiple Exposures
  47. Using the Guided Upright Tool in Lightroom
  48. The Power of Photographing Icons
  49. In Conversation: Susan Burnstine (Part II)
  50. In Conversation: Susan Burnstine (Part I)
  51. Controlling Your Edit with Lightroom's Tone Curve
  52. Making the Image: David duChemin
  53. 3 Ways to Make More Honest Portraits
  54. The Adjective-Driven Approach to Photography
  55. In Conversation: Oded Wagenstein
  56. Making the Zone System Work for You
  57. Ten (More) Ways to Improve Your Craft
  58. Reference View: A New Way to See in the Lightroom Develop Module
  59. In Conversation: Laurent Breillat
  60. The Best 3 Filters for Landscape Photography
  61. Creating Classical Portraits with Simple Lighting
  62. Photographic Processing and Believability
  63. Visual Storytelling: An Introduction
  64. Making the Image: Piet Van den Eynde
  65. In Conversation: Satoki Nagata
  66. Use Repeating Elements for Stronger Images
  67. In Conversation: Kate Densmore
  68. One (More) Reason To Use Adobe's Creative Cloud
  69. Three Ways to Use Backlight
  70. 2017 Rome Mentor Series Workshop
  71. 2017 Venice Mentor Series Workshops
  72. Controlling Foreground to Background Presence
  73. Making the Image: David Adam Edelstein
  74. In Conversation: David Adam Edelstein
  75. Using Contrast for Stronger Images
  76. Three Ways to Make Better Portraits
  77. How to Direct the Eye in Your Photographs
  78. How to Improve Your Street Photography
  79. In Conversation: Piet Van den Eynde
  80. Starting Your Next Personal Project
  81. Five (More) Creative Exercises to Improve Your Photography
  82. Five Creative Exercises to Improve Your Photography
  83. Three (More) Ways To Discover Your Vision
  84. Four Ways to Discover Your Vision (Part I)
  85. Three Ways to Make Stronger Black & White Images in Lightroom
  86. In Conversation: Cristina Mittermeier
  87. How to Add Mood to Infrared (and other) Photographs
  88. In Conversation: Paul Nicklen
  89. Four Ways to Tell Stronger Stories
  90. In Conversation: John Paul Caponigro
  91. Master the Art of Seeing and Improve Your Photography
  92. Adding Light with the Radial Filter in Lightroom
  93. The Power of Abstraction
  94. In Conversation: Anja Büehrer
  95. Five Ways to Add More Depth to Your Portraits
  96. Four Ways to Make Stronger Travel Photographs
  97. In Conversation: Martin Bailey
  98. Learn to Isolate
  99. Gear Is Good
  100. In Conversation: Dave Brosha
  101. For the Love of Your Photographs
  102. Working with Target Collections in Lightroom
  103. Review: Epson P800
  104. Seeing: Receptive & Observant
  105. Better Questions
  106. Siri? Ask Lightroom!
  107. Wake Up.
  108. In Conversation: David Jackson
  109. Photographic Skills: Patience
  110. In Conversation: David duChemin
  111. 2017 Jodhpur Mentoring Workshop
  112. 2017 Maasai Mara Safari
  113. Rome 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  114. Florence 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  115. Venice 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  116. Vision Is Better, Ep.54
  117. Vision Is Better, Ep.53
  118. Vision Is Better, Ep.52
  119. Vision Is Better, Ep.51
  120. Vision Is Better, Ep.50
  121. Vision Is Better, Ep.49
  122. Vision Is Better, Ep.48
  123. Vision Is Better, Ep.47
  124. Vision Is Better, Ep.46
  125. Vision Is Better, Ep.45
  126. Vision Is Better, Ep.44
  127. Vision Is Better, Ep.43
  128. Vision Is Better, Ep.42
  129. Vision Is Better, Ep.41
  130. Vision Is Better, Ep.40
  131. Vision Is Better, Ep.39
  132. Vision Is Better, Ep.38
  133. Vision Is Better, Ep.37
  134. Vision Is Better, Ep.36
  135. Vision Is Better, Ep.35
  136. Vision Is Better, Ep.34
  137. Vision Is Better, Ep.33
  138. Vision Is Better, Ep.32
  139. Vision Is Better, Ep.31
  140. Vision Is Better, Ep.30
  141. Vision Is Better, Ep.29
  142. Vision Is Better, Ep.28
  143. Vision Is Better, Ep.27
  144. Vision Is Better, Ep.26
  145. Vision Is Better, Ep.25
  146. Vision Is Better, Ep.24
  147. Vision Is Better, Ep.23
  148. Vision is Better, Ep.22
  149. Vision is Better, Ep.21
  150. Vision is Better, Ep.20
  151. Vision is Better, Ep.19
  152. Vision is Better, Ep.18
  153. Vision is Better, Ep.17
  154. Vision is Better, Ep.16
  155. Vision is Better, Ep.15
  156. Vision Is Better, Ep.11
  157. Vision Is Better, Ep.10
  158. Vision Is Better, Ep.09
  159. Vision Is Better, Ep.08
  160. Vision Is Better, Ep.07
  161. Vision Is Better, Ep.06
  162. Vision Is Better, Ep.05
  163. Vision Is Better, Ep.04
  164. Vision Is Better, Ep.03
  165. Vision Is Better, Ep.02
  166. Vision Is Better, Ep.01

Related Articles

Related Resources


Categories
Adam Blasberg Adobe Alexandre Buisse Andrew S. Gibson Andy Biggs Anja Büehrer Bret Edge Bruce Percy Claire Rosen Craft & Technique Creative Cloud Creativity Cristina Mittermeier Dave Brosha David Adam Edelstein David duChemin David Kingham Duncan Fawkes Guy Tal Henry Fernando Interview Jason Bradley John Paul Caponigro Kate Densmore Kathleen Clemons Laurent Breillat Libby Holmsen Lightroom & Photoshop Making the Image Martin Bailey Michael Frye Nathan Wirth Natural Light Oded Wagenstein Paul Nicklen Piet Van den Eynde Podcast Project Nimbus Rafael Rojas Satoki Nagata Sean McCormack Sharon Covert Sherri Koop Simi Jois Street Photography Susan Burnstine Vision is Better Show visual storytelling Willem Wernsen Workshop Younes Bounhar Zone System